Thursday, December 20, 2007
"Oh really," I replied. "Tell me why."
"Because there is lots of wandering in it."
"Did you say wondering or wandering?"
"Wandering. The characters wander about a lot."
"I wonder if they wonder too?" I asked.
So this little intro is to offer my readers a bonafide reason for not blogging for the next two weeks. I'm going to India. To me India is a bit like Wonderland, I may meet a blue Elephant or a tiger or a Maharaja or a beautiful bescarfed princess and then again I may not. I guess I've been reading too much magic realism related to India and now I will be confronted with nothing but realism and I am hoping it will be magical.
I fly out at 00.30, which confuses me because officially that is early Saturday morning, but I will be leaving my home on Friday evening and will spend 7 hours in transit at a Moscow airport! I have a crappy book that claims that 'if you loved the Da Vinci code dive into this'. I did not love the Da Vinci code, I made a mental note of every single bit of writing that pulled me out of the plot and made me question whether Dan Brown had ever actually been to Paris. Despite all this, I couldn't put the bloody book down, so I am hoping that The Rule of Four will have the same effect: disengage brain and read on.
Other holiday reads are: Kiran Desai - An inheritance of Loss and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (that one was recommended by Claire, but I am a bit dubious about it, we'll see).
The camera is packed - actually I better check that is charged, but no worries if it isn't there is plenty of time to do that.
And my early christmas pressie to myself is also charged. I finally decided that the old poddy with the average battery life of 30 minutes had to go and I replaced it with a new Nano model! He He.
Oh and before I forget I have been awarded a roar from Kimy over at Mouse Medicine. I feel kind of unworthy because I have really neglected the old blog recently; there's the WIP, which has taken lots of time, but there's also some other stuff going on, good stuff, I assure you it's all good at the moment. I'm not going to pass on the roar just yet as I want to think carefully and be as thoughtful as Kimy when I pass it on, so that's a future post to do...
Other future posts will include piccies and roving reports.
OK, I think I'm leaving the blog in order, all I have left to do is to wish you all a very happy Winter Solstice. Remember that after the 21st the days are getting longer and longer (if you live in the same hemisphere as me. If not I guess it's the opposite). Have a Merry Christmas if you celebrate that and basically rest up guys and I wish you all the best in 2008, I hope next year is a good and peaceful one for all.
Friday, December 07, 2007
When I first arrived in Paris, many, many moons ago, I didn't know about a young wizard with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead, and I didn't know that books were banned, but I was struck by the enormous tomes that my young students seemed to be dragging around with them. Having been open-minded enough to let one of my reading groups force me into reading a Redwall saga, I had then rather narrowmindedly shoved all those books in the 'large' category into my slush pile of 'never to be read' books.
I asked a colleague to tell me about the Harry Potter books, and while she lovingly stroked the cover of her book she did nothing to convince me to read it. Meanwhile 'His Dark Materials' was doing the rounds. I picked it up one day when I found it on one students table and couldn't get my head round the first page. It was Oxford, but not as I knew it. And what were these daemon thingies?
What did finally encourage me to pick up a copy of 'Northern Lights' was when the Librarian informed me that she was thinking of sending the set to the High School.
"Why?" I asked.
"I think it's too difficult for the students. If they don't read it, they are big books and it takes up room on the shelves. I could get other books."
It seemed like a convincing argument except I had seen many a student reading it. So I asked the students about it. They described the worlds and the characters and what they really liked about the books. I became a little more interested.
"The kids seem to understand the books." I told the Librarian the following week.
"Oh." The Librarian got shifty. "One of the parents brought it back. She didn't think it was suitable for her child."
I shrugged. "That's her choice as a parent."
"It's on the banned list in the States."
We had a rather heated debate which may have involved a few words I shouldn't have been uttering even in hushed tones in the library, but the upshot of it, was that I would read it and decide whether the set should stay or not.
Nowadays, I don't think I would have agreed to the last bit of that agreement. Having said that, I am glad that I got past the first page of the book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and having to wait three weeks to get the Subtle Knife was hellishly long. But that's not the point.
The point of libraries are there to encourage reading and to help a child develop. Think of the child who does not have the privilege to buy a brand new book, but can borrow it from their local library. Is it then the role of the library to decide if it is acceptable or not? No.
I don't think a public library is too different from a school library, it functions under the constraints of budget and space. And if it isn't being read then, that might be a reason to not keep a book. But should it be swayed by the views of minority extreme groups? No.
The hope is that the Library is the one place that is there as a neutral ground to provide the reading material and it is up to the readers to choose whether they want to read it or not.
I'm glad that I managed to get through life for so long without realising that books were banned (well apart from 'Lady Chatterly's Lover'). I'm also glad that having scanned a most Banned Books list that I have read quite a few of the books.
Meanwhile, I will continue to encourage children to read 'quality' literature and they will continue to check out 'Garfield' books. And when I look down the stairs and wonder why Martin hasn't made it up with the rest of the class I will smile when I see him with his nose stuck in the Garfield book, chuckling away.
Monday, December 03, 2007
The strike ended the day after I started a strike inspired series! Having said that the word on the street is that the negotiations will collapse, so I may have to bring the series back.
I also went to the Alberto Giacometti retrospective at the Pompidou. In fact it was the 2nd time I had been that week. The first time I went I discovered this view over Paris...
The 2nd time I discovered portions of Giacometti's atelier that had been cutaway when his wife was finally forced to move out in 1972. When I first moved to Paris, I lived round the corner from where Giacometti's atelier once was. I kept hoping that by passing that scruffy little door with the tiny plaque, that creativity would pour out and fill me. I don't know if it did, but I do remember that the first time I saw a full sized real life Giacometti in Venice (don't ask) I was blown away by the strength of emotion contained within those scratchy lines. Seeing so much work together made me feel as if I had a new depth of understanding about this artist. I knew which pieces of work I wanted to see, but I also felt that I understood his journey more and who he was.
Apart from that as I mentioned before I have picked up the MS/WIP, bloody mess of a book and started ploughing through that first draft. Chapter 1 (now Chapter 2) was critiqued by a group made up of several members of the 'Paris Chapter' of SCBWI. When I first opened up the critiqued document my initial reaction was: WHAT THE F... Hang on...
I've described the process of writing the first draft as verbal vomiting onto the paper. I spew it all out and then sift through it to see what is good. With short stories that tends to involve a fair amount of cutting. This time though I realised I had written half a story. Well not half exactly, more a skeleton; I got it out so quickly that sometimes I forgot to get the characters to sit down.
That initial critique has turned on a different part of my writing brain, the 'Who are you? What do you see?' part. The writing process is so different to the first it's almost like writing the book again. It's exciting all over again.
Also at first I felt that I needed to have every chapter critiqued to the extent that the first one was, but the critique gave me so much food for thought that I sailed through 2, 3 and 4. At Chapter 5 the brakes screamed as I came to a halt. I've managed to write it, but I now see how this group is going to work for me. These red light chapters, they are the ones that need critiquing.
So, blog I apologise for the neglect. I really will try to water you more often, but you understand why now, don't you?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
An occasional strike inspired series.
As soon as the strike started, as if on cue those icy cold mornings where your ears sting and you can see your breath started. Last week the mornings were beautiful, all pinks and pastel blues reflecting off the golden dome of Invalides and the point of the obelisk at Concorde.
For me winter is the season of hibernation, hot soups and crusty bread rolls. Each year I discover a soup and then I cook it to death. Pumpkin soup has been my soup of choice of late. I like to add roasted chestnuts and a big dollop of cream. The only problem is that if I buy a chunk of pumpkin it makes loads of soup and as much as I like it after three days I’m a little tired of it.
On Sunday, it was absolutely freezing when I went grocery shopping with soup on the brain. Somehow I came home with enough winter veggies to feed a small army. Still soup is easy enough to make isn’t it?
Butter, you have to start with a wad of it that much or that much, hey whack some more in, it will only make it better. Then onion, I’m pretty sure a good soup must always have onion in it. While the butter and onion are getting acquainted and melting into one choose two veggies. I think two are enough. Do the words sound good together? Leek and Potato? Sweet Potato and Carrot? Parsnip and Carrot. Parsnip and mushroom? Oh no. Beetroot and ... I think that is actually called Borscht, but I’m really not sure about the colour. Once you’ve decided on that you need to introduce your veggies to the butter onion. Once again they all need to get acquainted and mingle in that pot.
Next add the stock – not too much, or you’ll be eating watery soup all week. Add some herbs or spices depending on your mood: mild and mellow or hot and spicy? Bring it all to the boil and then lower it all and let it simmer.
At this time you can let your imagination wander and decide how your main character really wants to introduce himself to the reader. Who is he? What’s been his experience up until the point I choose to put him on the page? How can I let you get to know him and draw you in?
Finally blend it all up and add a dollop of cream to leave you licking your fingers and wanting more.
It seems the mulching, simmering, whatever is over. The first draft of my YA novel has been pulled out from under the autumn leaves and I’m trying to find those two perfect ingredients and herbs and spices. Of course I will add a bit of cream at the end.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I like to think of myself as someone who shuns routine. I don’t like timetables, my leisure time is fairly casually organised, I go with the flow. So that turns out to be a load of codswallop because turn my ‘routine’ on its head and I find myself complaining to fellow bloggers that I feel like I’m living through a war.
1. I tend to go to bed between eleven and midnight.
Due to recent ill health and more importantly the war between Sarkozy and a couple of Unions (one of which is apparently fighting amongst themselves and ignoring all the advice of their union leader) I have had to get up ten minutes earlier and walk fifteen minutes to get a bus everyday because there is a transport strike. Getting to work is fine, but getting home takes me about two hours. It’s only been three days so far and it set to be x days, but it’s blooming tiring and I seem to snuggling in under the covers around 9 (with laptop of course) and ‘lights off’ follows fairly soon after!
2. Saturday afternoon gym sessions.
Really I’m not going because I have done this ‘thing’ to my knee, but even if I did want to go I have my travel time down to a T. I leave the house at 12.43; it takes me 2/3 minutes to walk to the metro station, which means I arrive comfortably to get the metro at 12.47. Obviously there is no 12.47 train today and I am contenting myself with the fact that I am walking everywhere and haven’t given up the sticky buns yet.
3. I tend to blog on Saturday mornings and Mondays.
Go on check.
4. I cook on Sunday.
I get up I wander around the local shops looking at their produce and wonder what I would like to eat. I wonder home with (during this season) pumpkin, leeks, or winter vegetables and make a roast or soup.
5. I like to get an Indian on Friday.
This is part of my cultural DNA. Sometimes the feeling is stronger than me and I have to pick up that phone and order a biriyani (if it’s going to be a big writing weekend) or Samousas and Bhajis.
6. I feed the cat at 7 am and 8 pm.
I suppose I should interrupt proceedings here to say that Vanilla has tagged me with a meme to get me back into my ‘Blogging routine’. Obviously this triggered the whole ‘routine’ train of thought. How many routines are built into our lives that we just never ever think about? I’m guessing I could go to 7 but the meme is actually meant to be 7 random facts about me, so I’ve saved the best till last. There are rules and what not to this and I am supposed to pick 7 people to do this afterwards. I have to admit that I am so out of the loop at the moment that while I appear to be unbelievably anal, I am going to break the rules quite happily and not post the rules or pass this meme on. However, Vanilla, I will try and get back into my blogging routine.
7. I have a phobia about buttons.
Friday, November 09, 2007
I’ve been ill. Well, strictly speaking my left tonsil is still pretty unpresentable. There are good points and bad points to illness. I don’t suppose I need to go into the bad points; you’ve all been there. The good points are Radio 4 all day long and choosing bits of today’s paper that I want to read and curling up around my cat and sleeping (although that one is in a grey area as he wanted the lion’s share of the bed!)
There was one article I read with interest. It seems that perfectly healthy students are taking drugs for ADHD sufferers and narcoleptics because they are enable them to stay up longer and learn more. The bonus of drugs like Ritalin and Modafinil is that as of yet, no harmful side-effects have been discovered. So there is this perfectly harmless drug (supposedly) that enables you to think better, is non addictive and you can buy it over the internet for as little as £3 a dose. So would you take it?
As a student I did, come exam time, regularly dose myself up with ProPlus. Side effects of ProPlus were harder on whoever was sitting behind me in the exam as I started to act as if I was ADHD. I couldn’t sit still on the stuff, but I did stay awake; for days on end. Was it cheating? Or was it just one of those rites of passage that you go through as a student. Ritalin and Modafinil on the other hand have been proven to enhance the ability to learn. Trevor Robbins, professor of neuroscience at
“...analogous with doping in competitive sport. But what can you do? Even if you do drug tests in the exam hall, people might have used modafinil to improve their learning on a course in November, for instance, then taken the exam in July. How are you going to test it by then?”
But there is something that’s niggling at me and it’s not the ethical question of whether it’s cheating or not. It’s the question of time. When did we get so busy that the hours in the day are not enough? Even I’ve been feeling it this year. I can’t find time to make an appointment with a physiotherapist; I have to choose whether to do this or that. And if I had a wee relapse this week it’s because I didn’t give myself time to get better the first time round. And this is me who on the whole is pretty good about clawing back some of those minutes for me time. The head cannot create if it is not given empty space.
So what about today’s kids? Earlier this week as a bunch of us reminisced about how we would go out in the morning and come back in the evening. I also blew my colleagues theory out the window that is was city living that engendered this over protective upbringing as I grew up in city. So what’s changed? Apparently according to the article parents are pressurising their doctors to prescribe Ritalin and modafinil to their healthy kids. These kids are ferried around from ballet class to music class and extra this and extra that. When I was a kid I did Country Dancing and then just played and stuff. I don’t think I turned out too stupid either. It seems to me that the side effect of this drug is the death of the creative soul. We’re so busy filling these poor little people’s heads with facts that we are turning them into robots who can’t actually think. And maybe I’m burying my head in the sand and ignoring the world outside, but sometimes it’s good to just listen to the radio or read the paper.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...
As festivals go this one has got to be my favourite and the one I miss the most. To me it was the marker that the days were becoming colder and darker. I loved being all bundled up in my scarf and duffle coat and standing before that immense roaring orange monster, whose flames reached high into the sky, crackling and lunging upward. I loved the sparklers (although if truth be told, they scared me a little), and most of all I loved the fireworks. The whees and whizzes followed by a dandelion puff of colour that meandered back to the ground losing its shine. Even today I still love anything that involves fireworks, but it’s still not as special as Guy Fawkes Night.
The build up to Guy Fawkes was special too. Groups of shaven headed boys patrolling around town demanding: ‘Penny for the Guy’. And it always seemed to me, those who shouted loudest were the ones with the most poorly put together Guy. What the effigy lacked in stuffing was made up for in volume.
And then Guy Fawkes Night is one of the few things that is celebrated over the year that is curiously British. Maybe it’s my rebellious nature that loves the thought of something that is based in conspiracy and a fight for religious freedom. Maybe it’s the bonfire and fireworks. Maybe it’s jacket potatoes. Whatever it is Guido and the motley crew he worked for made an impression on me that has stuck. It has become part of my personal cultural identity.
Until I left
I sometimes get frustrated when people ask me what nationality I am and then ask me where I was born. Sometimes it’s just great to open my mouth and for someone to say: Oh you’re a Londoner and straight away there is a shared understanding.
It’s challenging and exciting to live outside my culture and in some ways I feel I understand it more now that I am outside of it. I am more able to criticise and be open-minded, to take the aspects I value and leave those I do not. I suppose I wouldn’t change anything; although it would be nice for my face to be licked by the heat of a bonfire tonight and for me to stare up open-mouthed at the fireworks.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Fnac is as much a part of French culture as the baguette and the French language. It sells ... things. I bought my first mobile phone in Fnac and then my first DVD player. I bought my i-pod there, my digital camera. I go there to stand in the presence of really expensive, really shit hot speakers. Sometimes when no one is looking I stroke those speakers. I stand in front of the guide book section and wonder whether to buy the Lonely Planet or the Guide Routard. I go there to wander by the piles of CD’s that are there to tempt you. ‘Look at me,’ they rustle as your fingers glide over their wrapping. There’s a spot in every Fnac where a little space has been provided, music is piped and there are French men lounging around on the floor with their heads buried in the latest BD (Comic book).
Fnac is one of the only stores that can legally open on Sundays. Fnac sells culture, so Fnac can sell.
I wondered past Fnac’s magnetic field yesterday and could not resist its pull through the doors and up the escalators. I glided around the camera section, CD section, DVD section, past the tills. I was on that golden high of clutching a Fnac bag. I got home and manically ripped off the cellophane wrapping, whacked up the sound on the CD player and then realised I had intended to buy salad!
Anyway here are some other things that you can buy in
Monday, October 22, 2007
1. After your intro, copy/paste this line and the rules below it: The originator - one Damien Riley - wants to see how far it goes so please keep his link intact: http://rileycentral.net/
* 2. Encourage people to post with the incentive of a link by including those who have passed it along here: Audrey, Celtic Angel, JM, Romance Writer, Deep Thinker, Absolute Vanilla.
* 3. Visit at least 3 on the list who’ve written and passed this meme. Leave them a comment.
And then you are supposed to, “pick three things that enrapture, consume, fascinate, or otherwise enliven you more than blogging. Then write a few lines about each to explain what the nonblog activity does for you, why and how.”
So I was thinking about this on a particularly long metro journey all the way across
Many, many moons ago when I still lived in
Despite the fact that we watched this (let’s face it – AWFUL) programme for three months, one thing we were all dead certain about was that we would never in million years want to do it. It was our worst nightmare incarnate. Stuck in a house with a bunch of strangers and cut off from everything we held dearest.
1. I could live without blogging, in the end I did it last year when I was cut off from civilization by FREE (bastards), but what would really send me over the edge is not being able to explore my creativity. Be it writing which is probably my biggest output, but also the painting, sketching, designing costumes and stages, taking photos or making bad pottery. It’s simply what makes me me.
2. The music. When I think back to key events in my life, there’s always a soundtrack. The soundtrack starts the year my parents built the extension on the house and we were packaged off to my cousin's house for the duration of the work. We listened (and sang) to the Grease soundtrack until the early hours of the morning. We moshed to Oliver’s Army. When we came back Waterloo Sunset was on the tape my Dad played while we were decorating. When my first teaching job in
3. And lastly reading. I have a huge pile of books to read, I always have a book on the go (even if it takes me forever to read it). It transports me to other times, other places, other worlds. It began my love for travel (which would be number 4 if I was allowed!) and nurtured my love of writing. When my fingers drop off, I’ll still be able to read.
So now I guess I need to pass it on to somebody else. Mmm... I’m going to ask Jon at Writing in a Vacuum to have a go.
Oh and Phoktober 22nd
Sunday, October 21, 2007
As for the x-ray fiasco, well the fact that a month after I went arse over tit in those gorgeous but extremely inconvenient shoes and still can’t kneel down meant that I was sent merrily to my nearest ‘Centre de Radiologie’. The knees were duly x-rayed and as I suspected nada was broken. My final diagnosis was to give up praying!
And so to the Transport Strike. Now in reality I like walking across vast tracts of
Here are some photos from last week’s Fete de la Vendange. I walked to that; I walked up the extremely steep hill gladly; twice.
This guy was providing entertainment before I even got to the Fete.
There were all sorts at this Fete.
Like I said all sorts.
And lots of entertainment.
And then these started showing up all over the place.
Monday, October 15, 2007
This year Blog Action Day's theme is The Environment. I've done other posts about Climate Change that you can read here, but for today I decided to do something a little different...
“Mrs. Colby, Kristin.” Miss Tanner beamed as she turned to face the whirlwind that had just entered the classroom.
Mrs. Colby clattered the biscuit tin onto the nearest desk. Miss Tanner’s smile froze as she looked at it. “The Time Capsule project.”
Kristin had never heard her teacher speak so quietly.
“I presume you gave the children clear instructions?” Mrs. Colby folded her arms across her chest.
“Eh, yes,” Miss Tanner peered at Kristin. “Kristin was supposed to ask before she put anything in it.”
Now both Mrs. Colby and Miss Tanner were staring at Kristin and she could feel herself going red.
“And I also said to put in everyday things.” Miss Tanner’s confidence grew as Kristin’s head fell lower.
Mrs. Colby tutted and turned to Kristin.
“What exactly did you put in it?” Miss Tanner knelt down and looked at Kristin, her eyes asking for permission to open the lid.
“Everyday things.” Now it was Kristin’s voice that was small.
“It was more like my bloody flowerbeds.” Mrs. Colby’s hands flew to her hips.
Miss Tanner had not taken her eyes from Kristin and finally Kristin dared look up and nodded. Miss Tanner lifted the lid and removed the five ziplock bags containing the wilted remains of Mrs. Colby’s flowerbeds.
“I just thought that in the future there might not be any flowers and so people would like to know what they looked like. I thought they’d keep. Mummy puts things in those ziplock bags so that they keep.” A tear spilled out the corner of Kristin’s eye.
“What have you been filling my daughter’s head with?” Mrs. Colby rolled her eyes.
Miss Tanner stood up and looked at Mrs. Colby. “Maybe if you had asked your daughter she could have explained. I’m sure that she did not maliciously intend to ruin your flowerbeds.”
“No flowers in the future.” Mrs. Colby scoffed.
“Well I don’t know about you Mrs. Colby.” Miss Tanner held up the bags for inspection. “But my Mum used to plant bluebells, pansies and snowdrops.”
“It just seems amazing what you’ve got in your flowerbed? Not very English country garden are they?”
“Well, the weather’s better now. We can have more variety.”
Miss Tanner raised an eyebrow. “I think that’s Kristin’s point Mrs. Colby.”
Copyright ©, 2007. Verilion
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I always find that part so difficult because for a start you want to pick EVERYBODY. But then you go and think about it and the people you have picked have already got the award. The next thing you know you’re no longer smiling. And then you think about the people who you didn’t nominate and maybe they are no longer smiling.
But Susan at Patchwork Reflections, who made the award says, comments make her smile and everybody who comments deserves the award. Oh I see. So the last people who did actually make me smile because they left lovely comments were:
Jon (hobbies include gorehounds, writing children's books and collecting blog awards), Monsieur Moon Topples (who still plays with his spiderman toy, so of course he puts a smile on your face), Scarlett (the most enthusiastic blogger in the history of blogging), Matthew at Common Misadventures (who has got the most gorgeous picture of a woodpecker up, don’t get distracted by the baby squirrels, just keep scrolling down, you can do it), Vanilla (and her reflections), Minx (who has also got a big smiley moment captured on her blog) and Marie (who sings to put a smile on her face).
OK that’s not 5, but where did I get 5 from hey?
I will do a proper Fete de la Vendange post later in the week, but in the meanwhile here is an erratum. Vendange means Harvest, so although this is to celebrate the Montmartre wine, it seems that because the wine is so bloody hard to get hold of and usually not very nice, now every winemaker is invited (which might be why my head hurts)!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Having said that there is a wee theme to today’s photos, and no it’s not gargoyles again.
This weekend is the
Thursday, October 11, 2007
So while I’m catching up I go and find myself something else to do. Next Monday is Blog Action Day (see above) and the focus this year is The Environment. I found this while I was searching for some stuff for the Eco-Ecole Club (try saying that very fast, over and over). I figured the little darlings have got enough to be getting on with for the moment, so I’ll do this one. Don’t know what I’m going to post yet. The other options were to donate your blogs’ proceeds of the day to a charity. Hang on! Are you lot making money out of this?
Anyway, I’m now going to tackle the book meme that Vanilla tagged me for ...ooh eons ago. Mmm... when you take out Vanilla’s answers this seems like a manageable book meme.
Total number of books owned
Well there’s a little pile there by the fireplace, that bookcase there, there’s some more on the phone table, that other bookcase...Look everywhere I am there are books: at home, at work, in my bag, there’s even a book under my pillow. I have more than enough for one person really, but then again you can never have enough. Does that answer your question?
Last book bought
I don’t live in the land of readily available English language books, then again I’m not deprived of books, but I do like to make part of my trips back to Blighty involve book shopping. So I bought:
The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery
Twenty love poems and a song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
Lady Friday by Garth Nix, the 5th in the Keys to the Kingdom series. I’m not entirely sure about this series of books, but the first book, Mister Monday has got probably the best prologue I’ve ever read.
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Last book read
The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery and Coven of One by ole Minx.
Five books which mean a lot to you
The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. If I can’t cross a bridge without playing Pooh Sticks, it’s because of A.A. Milne, and E. H. Shephard’s drawings. I really dig Pooh bear because there are days when I feel of very little brain. You know if we all lived our life like Pooh we probably wouldn’t get an awful lot done, but we’d eat a lot of honey!
Setting Free the Bears by John Irving. It was probably the first book that made me cry. It was hysterically funny, so full of historical resonance (the first time I read it was as the then Yugoslavian state began to fall apart) and dreadfully sad too. And yeah I’ve read it a few times along with quite a lot of other
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read this shortly after moving to
Heaven Eyes by David Almond. I remember putting the book down in complete awe and realising I had just read the best Magic Realist since Marquez. Who is Heaven Eyes? We never know, but this is a story that will stay close to your heart for years to come and fill you with hope.
Oh no... I’m at five and there are so many more... Ok. Last year I read History of the World in 10½ chapters. You couldn’t put a more disparate bunch of themes together and tie them together with a woodworm if you tried, or unless you were Julian Barnes. I have an absolutely terrible memory and yet I think I can just about remember everything he writes about love in the chapter entitled parenthesis. This is the sort of love I want to believe exists.
I’m not going to tag anyone for this meme as it’s been going around for a while and if you haven’t done it already then you SHOULD. Let me know if you do have a go. Also as this is quite long I won’t add a Phoktober bit, but do check it out here. I’ll catch up on that tomorrow!
Monday, October 08, 2007
Apparently I am ubernice, see it says so here. I like to keep mentioning this because it’s not often you get called nice and it brings a smile to your face. I don’t know about you, but I hear that word and my eyebrow arches so high it disappears into my hairline. Anyway this latest little badge (to add to my thoughtfulness and schmoozyness) came to me via Maht at The Moon Topples. And if I’m ubernice (see I’ve mentioned it again) it’s going to be kind of hard to find someone who tops that, but here goes:
Debi Alper – as the only blogger that I have met in the flesh so far, I can totally vouch for her niceness. She gave me a big hug and smiled a lot and was really nice the whole time we wandered along the South Bank.
Scarlett at From the shores of introspect and retrospect – Now despite the fact that I am quite possibly the worst commenter in the history of blogging, this chick is the Queen of Bloggy Enthusiasm and Positivity. My question Scarlett is: How do you do it?
Jon M at Writing in a Vacuum – Again I always leave Jon’s page with a smile on my face. He is so nice that you almost wish you could give him a little hug (and his gorehounds). Oh and he’s collecting these awards, so I have to help, don’t I?
And then there’s
Kimy is a fairly new reader of my blog and again I apologise for commenting so infrequently, but I do read you on the feeder thingamajig. Anyway, Kimy is always posting these little quotes that are sure to get your brain cells working in a good way, so I think she is also deserving of a ‘nice’ award.
I have to say that in comparison to the other two award things I’ve received this is probably the ‘nicest’ design as well. OK already, enough niceness.
In terms of the comments yesterday it seems that most of you liked the pictures of Tibo (rolls eyes) or the water shot. Obviously I can’t force you lot to share my love of gargoyles, so here’s another shot of the fountain.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
But First on the list. I’ve been in touch with the tamer of the pride and apologised, but I won’t be joining in with the Collective Story at the Shameless Lions Writing Circle, which you can find here. I pass the story onto to Maht at the Moon Topples. The Pride is now home to a few homeless lions as well so if you didn’t get one the first time round get in quick.
Seeing as I’m not doing this catch up in any particular order, I’m now going to post some random photos. They are all old photos because although I did have my camera in my bag all week it was raining on Monday when I came home, it was raining on Tuesday. It was raining on Wednesday, Thursday I was tired and Friday I may have been a little tipsy!
This was taken when I first got my camera a couple of years ago. I fell in love with those swimming pool pictures by David Hockney eons ago and have probably been messing about with the idea reflections on water ever since.
I think that Sacre Coeur is quite possibly the most hideous church in all existence, although that one in
And something has always got to have it’s redeeming features; gargoyles are always supercool.
See! This one is in Troyes (pronounced trois – of course) in the Champagne region, or near it, or around it (I once posted a photo of somewhere where I wasn’t too sure of the location and I got this anonymous comment telling me exactly where I had been and where I had not been). It’s not a great photo, but have I mentioned that gargoyles are supercool?
Monday, October 01, 2007
‘it felt like someone had ripped out my heart’
He’s talking about Anton Corbijn’s film ‘Control’. I knew as soon as I read the review that I would have to go and see the film. It tells the story of Joy Division’s lead singer Ian Curtis who committed suicide on the eve of their US Tour in 1980. I don’t think I’m giving away the ending by telling you, because to be honest I can’t think of anyone who would go and see the film unless they liked Joy Division. I know, I tried and I watched my friend’s faces fall one after the other as I gave them a briefer synopsis and asked them if they wanted to go, but a surprise text from a fellow fan prevented me from going on my own.
I read an interview with Corbijn the week the film was released. Corbijn was big into the
‘Control’ is based on Deborah Curtis’s (Ian’s widow) book called ‘Touching from a Distance’ and I also noticed as the credit’s rolled that she was heavily involved in the production of the film.
And then there’s me, part of the audience, but first let’s go back to my thirteen or fourteen year old self. All I have for music is this tinny tape deck and big bro has the 70 watt speakers and after years of heavy metal and punk, finally something good is pounding through the walls. In the end the reason Joy Division still speaks to so many teenagers is that Curtis’s lyrics captured that feeling of ‘otherness’ so perfectly. When I finally got my own stereo with no records to play on it, it was big bro’s Joy Division records that I sneaked out of his room to listen to (along with Dad’s top notch headphones so that I could hear Hooky’s baselines crystal clear).
So here I am half a lifetime away and I know the music and I know what happened, but somehow I expected more. The score of Control is fantastic, the photography is beautiful, but I left with this feeling that it was a film for fans. There wasn’t enough substance on the screen for an outsider to understand anything more. There were lines and moments that were brutally painful, but that was because of the experience that I had walked into the cinema with. Corbijn’s characters were like moving stills. That didn’t make the story any less harrowing or take away the feeling of shock at the end, but I just wondered. I wondered if we hadn’t been fans would it have been a different film.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
So I’ll start with the biggun. If you are a regular here, you will remember that during the summer I risked life and limb to go and take some photos. I was annoyed with the traffic on two counts that day. For a start it made me too scared to cycle and then it kept getting in the way of my photos, but Derec has done a nice crop job on them I thought. So go here to see the first edition of Blag, an online Literary and Arts Magazine. And yes...
I think I’ve already mentioned that Seamus over at Shameless Words has a new collaborative writing project up and running, but there is a new part, so go here to see that.
And then Maht at Moon Topples is doing something called Phoctober. He’s going to take lots of picture posts during October and he has challenged us fellow bloggers to join in too. My camera has been a bit neglected these last few weeks, so I may just chuck it in the bag and have a bit of an attempt... or I might cheat! Is that bad?
Oh and I finally sent Coven of One onto the next leg of its Book Tour. It hasn’t gone too far, just outside of
And then it seems to have been a bit of a slow writing week. I managed a paragraph and a bunch of orange post its. I’ve renamed the main character of the story, very long short story, mmm, whatever it’s going to be and I’ve tried to map out where the story is going to go. The criticism last week was very good so now all I need is some time with it. It’s growing in my head, but it isn’t jumping out onto the page yet.
Oh and the boots have started to come out, just the red and green ones so far, but soon it will be time for heating and the big black jackboots with stripy tights and then the hibernation will start for real. I quite like winter really.
Monday, September 24, 2007
So far in my blogging life I have managed to escape the bulk of these meme things that float around every now and again, but then this summer I got hit with a Thinking Blog Award. That was nice and quite easy; all I had to do was whack the thing up on my blog and pass it on. Then came the Schmooze award, again, not too much trouble, whack it up, pass it on. But now there is a new one floating around, one that instantly made me go GAH! Scarlett has asked me to divulge 5 strengths I have as Writer. This meme is super difficult because not only do I have to think, but I also have to be positive about myself. I also think that I’m still learning, so while I have chosen 5 things, I also hope that I will continue to learn and improve. So without further ado 5 strengths:
Dialogue: Apparently I write good dialogue.
Criticism: Like art, a piece of writing is never finished, so good constructive criticism is always helpful and I’m very open to it.
Solitary Confinement: I’m quite into my own company, and you need to be able to spend a fair amount of time on your own if you’re going to sit down and write for long periods of time.
Observation: I like people watching and listening. Some of the classic little snippets that I observe end up in my writing, with my own little twist of course.
Motivation/Addiction: Just don’t seem to be able to stop doing it. Well that’s got to be a strength hasn’t it?
And now I need to choose 5 people. The difficult bit with that is choosing 5 people who haven’t already been picked, so sorry if you’ve already been tagged but here goes:
Jude at Jude’s Writing Corner
Seamus at Shameless Words
David at Witnessing I am
Sam at Sam’s Spot
Marie at Deep Thinker
Oh and while I’m at it, Seamus has started something up at The Shameless Writing Circle. Go and have a wee peek.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I took the beginning of one of the millions of versions of The Trelawney Funerals to the writing group and it went down a storm, but since then two weeks have gone by and I was beginning to spot some of the faults with the ending and remembered why this was version 3 of the many versions and why I wasn’t happy about it. Still, that’ what writing groups are about aren’t they? So I took it along regardless to see if my fellow writing fraternity could help me iron it out. As I read doggedly through it I was aware of voices outside the room. There is always a certain amount of distraction just beyond the doorway what with this particular book shop being a major tourist attraction, but you learn to lose yourself in your writing. When Dan the Man (the guy who runs the writing group) crossed the room and removed the tourist stopping chair from the doorway, I may have frowned, but I ploughed on and the two women who crossed the room did so quietly and quickly.
And so I stopped and everyone was struck dumb with the really heavy ending, so I suppose it was quite good that Dan said: “Could you just recap the bit I missed when I went to let Jeanette Winterson cross the room.”
That proved to be quite difficult because my jaw had just clunked onto the floor. “Jeanette Winterson crossed the room when I was reading?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
I’m sure I got quite good criticism, but every now and again I was a little distracted by the fact that Jeanette Winterson had walked across the room. “Why did I have to be reading?” I moaned. “I would have bowed down to her excellence,” which I suppose would just have embarrassed me later. “I could have licked her feet.” I was obviously really losing it. “What did she look like?” A slightly more normal question.
I have to say that in the bright midday light, I’m even more gutted. Claire did, in her rather matter of fact, down to earth way ask me later what I would have said had I not had my head buried in 13 pages of double spaced type.
“Uggggh, ehhm, eh, um oh, hello,” I replied.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Did you know that Bridget Jones’s Diary started out its life in The Independent or that when Andrew Marr was editor of The Independent he was sacked spectacularly? No, neither did I, but thankfully I have currently reached the chapter called All about Me, in Andrew Marr’s book, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism. Actually, it’s not really called that, but it is all about him and he is now succeeded in making me think that the world over is full of Mickey Mouse institutions.
Apart from that I went to my first Scubwee (SCBWI) ‘Event’. I was a little worried about the whole thing when an e mail came round telling us to bring ‘nibbles’. My eyebrow arched as far as the brow could go and I took to wondering about that little animated mouse again. My contribution was hastily prepared (little round toasts with a hunk of cheese chucked on top) and when I arrived I noticed the pile of books that sat before Mary and Marcie before the bottles of wine; these guys were serious. They were also as generous with their wine as they were with their advice and to say that I am all a little overwhelmed is an understatement. Do this, don’t do that, write this, go there, go here and that’s just the advice about getting an agent and trying to get published. It was a rather sobering doze of realism, but thankfully I’m big into fantasy, so I’m not put off yet.
We talked about voice and what it was and then analysed a couple of pieces to see if the ‘voice’ was right. I don’t know about you but I’ve always assumed that voice is what the reader hears in their head. It’s like the thread that sews the book together and if the thread breaks or there are knots, it doesn’t work as well as if your sewing is seamless, but it’s true that that doesn’t describe what it is. Someone else’s notes (oh yes, there were handouts), described it as who the writer is and who the character is combined equals voice. Rennie Brown and Dave King in Self Editing for Fiction Writers say: The trick to bringing out a strong voice from yourself is ‘not to concentrate on it.’ It can’t be taught. Hmm?
We split into littlies and grumpy moody teenager group and the crunch moment was upon us. I pulled out the double spaced sheets (evidence that I am back at work and no longer using my own paper – although I did print on both sides in an effort to save paper) hands shaking and passed around page 1 of chapter 1 (and obviously page 2 as well). “I think if we stop at the bottom of page one that will be fine.” I mumbled and the chosen one began to read. It’s interesting hearing the voice in another accent, because if I have become aware of anything this last year, it’s that my ‘voice’ is BRITISH. There are things I will not compromise in my writing, but at the same time I don’t want my language to be so obscure that it’s limited, so it’s always an interesting exercise to get another accent to read your work. I guessed when they all flipped over to page 2 that things were going well. When the group leader had to force us to stop reading I began to feel a little proud. The good news is THEY LIKED IT. While I recognise that I still have a lot of work to do, my head is feeling very bloated and I wandered around on a little cloud of inner glow yesterday!
I also realised where I had met Mary before. It was at a baby shower, where I had turned up late and flustered and as the whole room looked on I handed over my gift to the expectant mother in a plastic bag. When Mum to be’s face began to crease I wondered what I had put in the bag. It was the present, I was sure; it had been banging softly and squeaking against my knee all the way there. Mum to be pulled out the book and read the title: “A hundred years of Dyslexia? Are you trying to tell me something about my kid?”
Saturday, September 15, 2007
I’ve been reading Andrew Marr’s short history of British Journalism called ‘My Trade’. I once considered an alternative career as a journalist, but not very hard and if Marr’s descriptions of the trade are anything to go by I don’t drink enough by half and I don’t seem to have the nose for hard news. I would probably write the ‘Strangely Enough’ stories because those are the ones that interest me: the Japanese man on a motorcycle who hit the central reservation and drove on for a while missing the lower half of his leg without realising, or the other motorcyclist who popped in to see his girlfriend for five minutes and came out two hours later to discover that his prosthetic hand that he had left attached to the bike had been stolen.
Or maybe I would write a diary column, but not about the rich and famous, but the everyday and mundane such as the guy whose sense of dress was so poor that he fully distracted me from reading anymore of ‘My Trade’. There I was clutching onto the bar to stop myself staggering all over the train when over the top of it I espied a melange of colours that surely should never be seen together: dark blue with orange pinstripes. It was so shocking that I soon realised that it was responsible for the fact that I kept losing my place on the page. I kept the book there so I could hide the fact that my jaw was falling lower and lower, but he must have seen my eyes grow to saucers when I spotted the vertically striped shirt in varying shades of pink and grey. The silver tie that lay on top of it was yet another colour to add to the bizarre palette. I wondered if I should say something, but thankfully tact intervened and told me that a mere foreigner should never give a French man fashion tips, even if his wardrobe is visually disturbing, his ego may never recover.
And the Scottish fans arrived. Although I somehow missed them and in fact had no idea that there was a French/Scotland Euro 2008 qualifying match, I have carefully reconstructed this story from eyewitness accounts. My contact on Tuesday’s Eurostar confirms that the fans were as pissed as farts even as they travelled over to
Lastly was the